I have broken my residency up into three parts, my first 6-week visit was back in May/June/July, and this current visit is September-October for a month. Undertaking the residency in this way is logistically a way to still follow through on my other exhibition commitments, but importantly also to give myself some thinking space away from the AWRI mid-way through. So coming back in week 7 I should, in theory, have a fresh new perspective. I learnt this from my experience on previous short-term residencies in which clarity came after my visit. It takes time to process the experience.
So during this visit we are delving headfirst into the study that I have been planning in collaboration with the Sensory team. In an ironic blog conundrum, I cannot talk about the study in detail in case those involved are influenced or skewed by reading about it.
What I have found interesting in preparing the study has been the conflation of scientific and creative approaches. I do not believe these two investigative approaches to be completely opposed, so much as having different processes. I have been fortunate, no privileged, to work in a team who continues to remind me that they are happy for the project to err on the creative side, putting aside the need for watertight scientific rigour. These restrictions could, I am sure you can imagine, really shut down some of my more absurd notions. There are various studies that have been held in less-than-ideal testing contexts, such as restaurants. Chef Heston Blumenthal for example has facilitated various ‘experiments’ in his restaurants in collaboration with sensory scientists. These studies held outside of laboratory conditions can provide experimental data, which may or may not be followed up in labs by more rigorous studies. But either way they are not restricted by laboratory environments, i.e room temperature, minimum participant numbers, random presentation order, and neutral atmosphere.
I hope the project strikes a balance. The primary creative variation in the study we are developing is that it requests the participant to perform different cognitive tasks than they would usually be asked to do. In a regular wine study, if 11 people use the term red fruit for a particular wine, and one person says dark fruit, the minority could be argued to be ‘incorrect’. When you start asking participants for responses that are related only to their personal concepts, they could get frustrated or just plain confused. A huge benefit of this study is that we have quite large taster numbers, the AWRI has access to professional wine judges, trained tasters, and just regular wine drinkers, and we should after our first round of tests have around 60 people tested. So something that seems like it could create quite arbitrary or subjective responses will hopefully return some kind of pattern, the data from which I can use to create artworks with a synesthetic harmony to specific wines